Iran's state news agency reported today that an Iranian passenger plane flying over Syria was sent into a nose-dive after two U.S. fighter jets flew too close. Reports initially surfaced that there was just one fighter jet but then it was confirmed that there were indeed two.
An #Iran-ian passenger plane (belonging to Mahan) bound for Beirut was approached by two fighter jets, likely #Israeli ones, in Syrian airspace. An Iranian journalist on board says the fighters were in 100 to 200 meters distance from the plane. Some passengers have been injured. pic.twitter.com/SYdecBsSct— Abas Aslani (@AbasAslani) July 23, 2020
The pilot of the passenger airliner reached out to the jet pilots to ask them to keep a safe distance. The jet pilots both identified themselves as American, reported the agency.
The agency also posted a video that showed a jet that can be seen flying through the plane's window and a passenger with blood on his face. The flight was Mahan Air flight 1152 from Tehran to Beirut.
The plane landed at the international airport in Beirut without incurring any damages. The U.S. later confirmed that two F-15 fighter jets did indeed approach the civilian plane to conduct a “standard” visual inspection at a “safe distance” of 3280 feet (1,000 meters).
“Once the F-15 pilot identified the aircraft as a Mahan Air passenger plane, the F-15 safely opened distance from the aircraft. The professional intercept was conducted in accordance with international standards,” Captain Bill Urban, a spokesman for US Central Command, said in a statement.
However, passengers claimed that the jets actually came within a distance of 320 to 650 feet (100 to 200 meters). Israel and the U.S. have long speculated that airliner Mahan Air was ferrying weapons for Iranian-linked guerrillas in Syria.
The incident comes as the U.S, and its allies face off against Iran following the killing of Iranian general Qassem Soleimani in January. The U.S. has yet to clear up what the fighter jets identified as suspicious on the civilian airplane and what they indeed would have done had there been found a cause for worry.